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Arsenal 6-1 Coventry City

26th September 2012

This was a refreshing night for Arsenal as an unfamiliar line-up laid on entertainment in this Capital One Cup tie. No sooner had the Coventry City substitute Callum Ball cut the deficit to 4-1 in the 78th minute with a header, than the hosts replied through Ignasi Miquel. Theo Walcott then insisted on taking his second goal for a 6-1 win. It was a cheerful event, but the visitors can still take pride in the account they gave of themselves.

While Coventry depended on whatever knowhow they could muster for such a game, the outlook of the hosts was in inevitable contrast. Arsenal’s 19-year-old Nico Yennaris had, for instance, been the club’s mascot when the team faced Coventry in 2000. This was just his second start under Arsène Wenger.

Goalkeeper Damián Martínez and defender Martin Angha made their Arsenal debuts.

The midfielder Yennaris was just one of the fresh faces. Even so, the selection did include an element of experience in the shape of individuals such as Andrey Arshavin and Theo Walcott, with the latter on the field at kick-off for only the second time in this campaign.

The one element that made a contest of this encounter lay in the fact that Coventry were galvanised by the occasion before the interval. Arsenal, for their part, can have had no cause for self-satisfaction. Their final ball tended to be misplaced at that stage of the contest.

Arsenal’s opener did not come until six minutes from half-time. The slight imperfections were still present as the key pass was partly a tackle by Francis Coquelin. Olivier Giroud then tucked the ball smoothly into the net for his first goal since joining the club from Montpellier during the summer. This game mattered to him and to Arsenal, irrespective of the unfamiliar team selection

Managers are too sensible to castigate themselves in public but this tournament must cause Wenger to feel rueful. In 2011, for instance, Birmingham took a detour on the way to relegation and beat Arsenal in the League Cup final. It may not have been a crucial episode, but that lapse leaves the club without a trophy for seven years. Given that context, it is a little odd that Wenger can act as if this tournament should be disregarded. He is far from being alone in that attitude, but it seems illogical for prominent managers to ignore any piece of silverware.

Arsenal were eager yet the final ball tended to elude the attackers during the first half and the Coventry goalkeeper Joe Murphy seldom needed to show off his acrobatic expertise, even if he had been beaten once by half-time. This was a stimulating match for the visitors, even if the recently appointed manager Mark Robins has a side that is second from bottom in League One.

They have made more of an impression in this tournament, but the team had not been involved in giant-killing. Slaying Arsenal was an implausible task, but the Coventry side did at least contain some ballast in the inclusion of a seasoned figure such as Gary McSheffrey. There had been nothing ignominious about the first-half.

Coventry, though, had to survive a penalty early in the second half after Reece Brown had barged into the back of Arshavin. After two semi-streakers, both retaining their underpants, had been marched away Murphy leapt to his right and saved the spot-kick from Giroud.

The match was more engrossing for a crowd given at a remarkable 58,351. They were happier still, too, when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain put a 20-yarder past the left hand of Murphy to extend the lead in the 57th minute.

In its way, this was a satisfying occasion. Coventry took pride in themselves and did not seem to feel that they were out of their depth. All the same, there was a fervour to Arsenal, who were rather enjoying the evening. Winning Wenger’s approval would also have been a priority for some in the throes of making their careers.

Arshavin added another in the 63rd minute before Walcott, who has had his problems this season, got on the scoresheet twice. Only at that relatively late stage did Coventry start to look as if the challenge had ceased to stimulate them.


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